Military Vet Makes Smart Business Moves

Sunday, September 02, 2012

As the tech world waits for news of the next iPhone's release date, Mark Robbins also waits with anticipation, though for a different reason.

For one, he prefers Android phones. More importantly, he and his father, Rob, own Cell Phone Repair in the Westfield Annapolis mall. About 80 percent of their business comes from repairing Apple's smartphone and related products.

Capital Gazette recently spoke with Mark about his business, its new Pasadena location and transitioning from a military career to small business ownership.

How did you get into the cellphone repair business? "Last year I was looking for a good franchise to buy into, I'd always wanted to start my own business.

"I came across CPR and it seemed like a good niche. I personally like tech and hadn't seen anything like them out here. With the exception of some small independent stores it's a fairly empty playing field." What is it like working as a father-son team? "The family relationship is an interesting one. You might give more allowance to family than you normally would with someone else.

"You definitely get to know your relative in a different light, working with them and seeing their strengths at work. It's been a good experience on the whole working with him." What is your history in the military? "Originally I enlisted in 2002 after 9/11 so obviously patriotism was a part of it, and they had some really good benefits for going to college.

"I spent some time in Guantanamo Bay from January 2006 to May 2007 as an intelligence analyst. Basically I was analyzing material from various sources and providing it to soldiers on the ground." What was it like to transition from the military to business ownership? "Well in the middle there I was a defense contractor for a few years in northern Virginia so I had a little transition into civilian life, but there's definitely a huge difference working for someone else and then yourself.

"You can set your own schedule, which has been great. Working independently and making your own decisions has been pretty rewarding, but you're responsible for all the mistakes as well. As a whole, I've been pretty happy running my own business. It's been an exciting nine months." How has business been? "It's been amazing, better than I expected. The public has really latched onto the idea, our customer base built up very quickly.

"Most people weren't aware of the services we offer so we've been letting people know what we can do and that we can save them money since it's cheaper to go through us.

"We do a lot more than work on phones. We've worked on GPS units, we'll give anything a shot. We also have a partnership with Shiners where people can donate electronics to be recycled." What was the motivation for opening the Pasadena location? "We came into this looking to open multiple stores, it was part of our game plan from the beginning. I live in Pasadena and I thought it had the potential to support the business. I like the small community feel it has and I think we can be more involved there." iPhone or Android? "I've gone back and forth. I have the benefit of trying out a lot of different products, and currently I'm using an Android. There's just a little more freedom on that operating system and more options."

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